Christmas on the Comstock, Virginia City, Nevada
Pick your favorite holiday happening, and odds are they’ll have it in Virginia City. The historic Gold Rush-era mining town celebrates for the entire month of December with activities like a Grinch Made Me Do It Saloon Crawl, authentic steam train rides on the V&T Candy Cane Express, and the annual Comstock Cowboys Christmas in the Sierra concert at Piper’s Opera House. Other events include a festive parade of lights, a holiday craft fair, and gingerbread social.
Winter Karneval, Leavenworth, Washington
Washington's Bavarian-inspired village of Leavenworth keeps the holiday spirit alive through January. With a backdrop of a half-million twinkling lights strung across the postcard-cute downtown, festival goers can expect live ice carving demos in addition to activities like tubing, snow shoeing, and sleigh rides. The Karneval’s main events occur over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, culminating with a fireworks display that Sunday evening.
Napa Lighted Art Festival, Napa, California
January 20 to February 18
Downtown Napa transforms into a walkable, open-air art gallery that lights up the nights each winter. Expect everything from immersive video installations to a towering and illuminated “House of Cards,” as well as a trio of artworks projected onto three iconic buildings during the festival’s first nine evenings. Or create your own work of luminous art as part of the Lantern Parade, a family-friendly, half-mile procession that takes place after-dark on February 10.
Bear Lake Monster Winterfest, Garden City, Utah
The beauty of this festival is its colorful origin story, unique to the area. The Cisco Disco was born in the ‘80s when a handful of fishermen, gathered early in the morning at Bear Lake in late January to catch native Bonneville Cisco, decided to fry up a few of the sardine-like fish instead of using them for bait. Community leaders built on this obscure event by adding a Friday kickoff party (with outdoor winter sports expos, samplings from local restaurants, and other family-friendly fun); village market with food trucks; chili cook-off; and a plunge into the freezing lake. Just watch out for the Loch Ness-like “monster” that local legend proclaims still swims in the lake.